I’m moving next month, so I’m doing the classic stuff-purge so I don’t have to move things I never use or don’t need. I found a notebook that I recognized as being one that I’ve used for goal-related notes in the past so I took a break to look through it.
The first entry is dated September 2016. It is a single list. The next is February 2017, and this one had several pages of brainstorms, notes, priorities, and affirmations. The 2017 version of myself continued to check in with this notebook quarterly that year, always setting a fresh set of (roughly the same) goals for the next 90 days.
Here’s what I noticed:
- Weight loss was in my top three goals every single time I made a list.
- This notebook is full of ideas that I am STILL kicking around in my head, or imagining up again and not realizing I’ve already thought of them.
Two days ago, I thought of an online course I could offer. And this notebook had it outlined already. Whoops.
Something stopped me from moving forward with ideas for courses, ebooks, and other offerings.
What was it?
I was subconsciously putting these ideas on hold because I thought weight loss should be my top priority, my number one goal, the driving motivator behind everything else in my life.
I could not move forward with the other things until I proved to myself that I could lose the weight.
I did not deserve those other goals until I lost the weight.
It was not until February 2019 that I realized I had an eating disorder and moved into a restful recovery phase.
Before that, weight loss had been my new year’s resolution for as long as I can remember. Weight loss was the one thing my mother would be supportive about. Weight loss was there, looming behind every corner, promising a better life on the other side, when I could finally embody my “lifestyle change” and be happy and carefree and, most importantly, thin.
I even sold weight loss programs and shakes as an MLM “business owner,” thus monetizing my own eating disorder and burnout so that I could be a #GirlBoss.
Dieting contributes to burnout culture
Dieting makes you so tired.
You have to count, and measure, and remember so many rules.
You carry so much shame and guilt and negative self-talk about how you were “so bad” for having brunch with your best friend over the weekend or eating gluten.
When you spend your time in weight loss centered spaces online and in person, you pick up these messages and internalize them seamlessly. Before and after photos become your driving motivator. You think being hungry is good because an empty stomach means you’re burning more fat.
You try every fad diet from intermittent fasting to keto to Whole30 (yes, it’s a diet). You go paleo. You go vegan. You cut whole food groups out. You lie to yourself that carrots and almond butter taste like candy bars. You drink so much water that your pee is clear.
You gaslight yourself constantly.
And your friends clap for you and say they’re so proud.
So you can’t stop. You can’t ever stop.
That’s the reality when weight loss is your number one goal. You’re actively harming your body, making it think you are in a starvation crisis, and the world applauds you for it.
What is your weight loss goal preventing you from experiencing?
If weight loss is your number one goal, that means other goals, like writing a book or getting a promotion or becoming debt free or repainting your office, are lower priorities.
You fully embodying your awesome, dream-achieving, deepest-desired self is less important than getting a smaller waist.
You are made up of pure possibility, and you think you’re not worth it because of muffin top.
Babe, get some jeans in a size up and get to work on the things that make you the version of you who lights up because they’re following their passions.
Stop putting your life, your goals, your dreams, your future on hold because you think a thinner version of you is the one who deserves it.
How do you stop prioritizing weight loss?
Now that you can maybe-almost start to believe that your goals are worth going for no matter what body you’re in… how do you begin the work of leaving diet culture behind?
One: Unlearn all the things you think you know about weight and health.
This takes time, energy, and a lot of calling your sister to ask “DID YOU KNOW?” (that last one might just be me).
These books helped me get started on my eating disorder recovery:
The Fuck It Diet by Caroline Dooner
Health At Every Size by Lindo Bacon
Be aware, though, that the Health at Every Size (HAES) movement centers Whiteness and Western science (as explained by Lucy Aphramor in this article).
Though these two books helped me begin my eating disorder recovery, I have not fully unpacked my own privilege in being directly represented by the HAES movement and could stand to review these texts with a more critical lens now that I’m further into my recovery.
Two: Examine your beliefs about weight, health, and value.
If you live in the United States, you very likely received messages about thinness and beauty, or strength and physical prowess, from a young age.
What do you believe a fat body means about you as a person? What fears do you have? How do you think people would treat you if you stopped dieting? How would you move forward regardless of their thoughts about your body?
I had a relationship fall apart after I stopped dieting. He no longer wanted to be with me if I wasn’t losing weight. That’s some intense backlash, but I moved out, moved on, and now only date people who are attracted to me in my right-now body, with no expectations that I’ll ever lose a pound.
Three: Remove weight-loss focused messages from your life as much as possible.
This means unfollowing Instagram accounts that have before and after photos. This means deleting your Pinterest fitspo board. This means using Facebook’s snooze option on your relatives doing yet another holiday Biggest Loser contest.
It’s easier to cultivate boundaries online than in real life. How do you handle it when your coworkers are bringing diet culture to the water cooler? Ignore them if you can. Ask them to please not speak about dieting is also an option, but they may look at you like you have three heads (remember, diet culture is NORMAL and eschewing it is WEIRD).
Four: Stop dieting.
It’s hard to let go of the thing you’ve had to do forever. But it’ll be pretty rad when you realize that you don’t have to be hungry all the time. You might even start to enjoy food in new ways without guilt.
Five: Reprioritize your goals, and do something amazing without needing to hit a goal weight first.
If this blog resonated with you, you will likely enjoy Episode 3 of Run Like Hell Toward Happy, “Motivation is NOT Like a Muffin,” which discusses the rampant fatphobia in the self help industry. You can find Run Like Hell Toward Happy on all major podcast platforms including Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, and Spotify.